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The point of spine compression should the tarmac be anything less than glass smooth. I could take Sport in small doses only – staying in that mode for too long proved tiresome.

What is far from tiresome is the cabin, specifically its high level of comfort for those occupying the front seats. (Yes, there are back seats, but they are of little use except as another place to stash the groceries.) The dominant material in the interior is black Alcantara, found in the centre sections of the sports seats, steering wheel rim, gear and hand-brake levers, door handles and door storage compartments. It feels almost ticklish to the touch at first, but it’s a unique alternative to leather.

Equally unique is the centre console, the same Carrara white colour as the tester’s exterior, as well as the bright red seatbelts, the same shade as the piston calipers hiding behind the stunning black-spoke rims.

What isn’t so cool is the way Porsche jams it to its dedicated fan base, and I’m not just talking about the price discrepancy between Canada and the United States. Come on, $600 for heated front seats on a car with a $117,600 sticker? Ridiculous! How about $2,410 for the navigation system? Shameful.

That beef aside, the GTS is otherwise one sweet ride – a driver’s car that is docile when need be, ferocious when unleashed and eminently controllable. It’s a modern muscle car from the other side of the pond and a tonic for those of us with long, fond memories of performance past.


TYPE OF VEHICLE: Rear-wheel-drive sports coupe

ENGINE: 3.8L DOHC boxer six-cylinder

POWER: 408 hp 7,300 rpm, 310 lb-ft of torque 4,200 rpm

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual

BRAKES: Four-wheel disc with ABS

TIRES: P235/35ZR19 front, P305/30ZR19 rear


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Mazda Protege’ LX

Highs: Solidly built, sporty quickness of the controls, great driving position.

Lows: Hard ride, abrupt clutch engagement, fairly noisy inside.

The Verdict: A four-door Miata.

The correct answer is none of the above. We may say that we have your transportation interests in mind, but when it’s time to vote, the winner is always the one that’s most fun for us to drive. The Protege’ has the right stuff for car cuckoos on a budget. The clutch grabs right-now quick, the five-speed lever moves through a crisp track, handling is athletic with tight control of roll angle, and this car has an agreeable fit about its cockpit that makes us feel right at home. The wheel rim is a fat handful. The dead pedal is located wisely far to the left, allowing us to brace against it for side support (the Toyota, for all its carefully honed goodness, gets that part wrong). A car guy can go to work in this box without feeling as though he’s put the good life on hold.

The Protege’ doesn’t score badly in any measure except gas mileage, where it’s neck and neck with the Kia for last place. Clearly, this car is strongest on the intangibles, however. Acceleration is resolutely average. Skidpad grip is average. The brakes are exceptional, stopping from 70 mph in only 195 feet. The Mazda also performed near the top in our lane-change test.

As a passenger hauler, it’s fair. The taut suspension, which feels so responsive to the involved driver, is actually pretty stiff, more so than all the others. This car hits the bumps hard, and it’s not silent about it, either, although the solid structure is notably free of shake. The engine puts out a happy sound, but it’s loud at full power. The coach section is among the most spacious for two occupants. The seat is park-bench hard, and footroom under the front seats is on the tight side. With three across, the outer occupants will find headroom closing in on zero over bigger bumps.

Our advice: Don’t sit back there. It’s the Protege’s driver seat that always treats you right.


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